Catastrophizing is a Catastrophe.

So, this week, my therapist gave me a task that’s been really difficult to endure, but that’s shown me a couple of consistent errors in my thinking.

The Daily Mood Log/Thought Chart For The Win

The way the daily mood log/thought chart works is that you first write the thought you had (preferably without judgment of that thought), then you write the intensity of feeling, then you identify the error in thinking (the kind of automatic negative thought it is), and then you write out a rational thought to replace the negative thought.

There have been times this week that doing the exercise has caused me a great deal of grief because I was busy judging myself for having the negative thoughts to begin with, and further was annoyed that I noticed the repetitive nature of the kinds of ANTs that I was having… but today, I see the point of the exercise.

I consistently overgeneralize, catastrophize, and use emotional reasoning to tear myself down.  Because I feel embarrassed about my current condition, I put myself into panic mode and believe that things are as bad as they can be and use those negative feelings as evidence for why I “should” kill myself. (“Shoulds” are another automatic negative thought!)

Looking over 2 full pages of automatic negative thoughts from the past week, it’s clear as it can be that what’s “trying” to kill me is intolerance to my own sense of shame. I hold myself to some ridiculous, unattainable standard of who I believe I ought to be, and because I am not living up to that standard, I tell myself that I ought to die.

The Real Shame Would Be Dying.

A few days ago, on Facebook, a friend of mine nonchalantly offered $1000 to anyone who would be willing to shoot him in the head because he isn’t able to kill himself.  My response to him was “Fuck you” and unfriending him.  That lead to a really good talk over messages and re-friending, when I was able to convince him that he didn’t really want to die yet.

The hardest (and probably best) part of the conversation we had was when I had to read some of the exact same things that I say to myself consistently, and realizing how totally full of shit we both are when we’re in the thick of suicidal ideation.  Seeing someone you care about talk about how they push away the people they love because they think it’s for their own good makes you realize how backwards that thinking is.

Trying to push away people who love you doesn’t make those people love you any less. It just stops you from accepting their affection into your heart because you don’t feel as though you deserve it. And when it comes to love, you don’t get to choose what you deserve and what you don’t. The people giving the love choose whether or not you’re deserving.  So, at the end of the day, pushing away people who care about you is just another form of self-harm.

Everything Is The Worst Thing Ever… But Not Really.

Earlier this week, on this blog even, I overgeneralized. I said that I never leave the apartment, when in reality, I make it my business to try to leave the apartment at least once a day, at least to go to the gym, and if not to go to the gym, then I go to Walgreens or the grocery store or *something* so that I don’t go absolutely stir crazy.  But the fact of the matter is that I catastrophize and overgeneralize till the cows come home.

To illustrate my point, I think the silliest thought that I wrote on my log that shows how badly I catastrophize and overgeneralize, that I’m willing to share is this one:

“I’m too fat and ugly to exist.”

Now, I’m willing to share this one, because I’m pretty sure every person has had a similar thought to this at one point or another, and when you think about it, discreetly, it’s actually really amusing.

First, I exist exactly as I am.  If I were actually too fat and ugly to exist, I wouldn’t be here. So that’s 1 very clear logical inconsistency. Secondly, I am not that fat or ugly. Overweight? Sure. I work out consistently because I know I’m 70 pounds above my goal weight. (And oddly, I have no problem admitting that to the world. It’s honest. I own it.) I could be fatter and guess what — I’d still be alive. Am I ugly? Not really – in fact according to OkCupid, more people than not think I’m hot. That’s objective reassurance I could never have asked for, but love that I got. So the thought was, in actuality, total bullshit.

I say all this not to suggest that I’m some kind of hottie, but because I think it’s important to recognize that when I wrote the thought down, I was, momentarily, sold on the idea that I was so fat and ugly that I should kill myself. And that’s just silly. 

(Re)Learning to Be More Reasonable

What I’ve noticed, as I’ve read through things, is that with every insult I give myself, I inevitably end it with, “I should just kill myself.” or “I should die.”  And I realize, I’ve been through this before.

The first time I checked myself into a mental health hospital for suicidal depression, in 2003, I was ending almost every thought with, “I should just kill myself.”  Like, “I burned the eggs; I should just kill myself.” or “Fuck, I have to fold clothes – why don’t I just kill myself?” And that’s where I learned the term “suicide addiction,” and learned that the truth of what was going on was that thinking that way gave me some kind of sick feeling of control over my life, when I felt like I had none.

I am sad, noticing that I’m right back in the same place I’ve been before… but I’m glad for 3 things: (1) that I got help and powerfully chose to stop this way of being (2) that I am certain that I can can overcome it, and (3) I didn’t let it get as bad as it was the first time before I chose to stop it.

Addiction, regardless of the type, is never an active choice, but ending the behavior always is. I’m strongly considering joining a Suicide Anonymous Skype meeting on Monday.  I figure it can’t hurt.

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